GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Top-ranked Florida will be without one of its best pass rushers against No. 2 Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
Defensive end Carlos Dunlap was arrested early Tuesday and charged with driving under the influence, just days before the biggest game of the season.
Coach Urban Meyer said Tuesday after practice that Dunlap won't play Saturday, adding that there is no timetable for his return. Meyer called Dunlap's actions "stunning."
"Carlos obviously made a very poor decision," Meyer said. "I have not spoke to him or his family yet. He's not going to play. But I want to visit with him and his family first and go from there."
Meyer acknowledged that the situation was a distraction as his team prepares for a matchup that has national championship implications. But he also said his players might be able to overcome it, much like they did flulike symptoms and linebacker Brandon Spikes' suspension for dirty play.
"We've had distraction after distraction," Meyer said. "This is a rather serious one, obviously, so it is a distraction. Sometimes this team's found ways to get a little tighter in distractions. We've had a few of them this year."
Dunlap, a 20-year-old junior from North Charleston, S.C., was arrested at 3:25 a.m. He was released on his own recognizance about six hours later during his initial appearance at the Alachua County Jail. Judge Mary Day Coker admonished Dunlap for underage drinking, and said he cannot possess alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription drugs that are not prescribed for him.
He was told not to drive without a license, and if caught driving without a license, he would violate the terms of his release. The judge released Dunlap without bond because he has no prior adjudications and no failures to appear in court.
Wearing a jail-issued, green-and-white striped jumpsuit, Dunlap spoke softly when asked questions and always replied "Yes, ma'am," to the judge.
According to Gainesville Police spokesman Keith Kameg, an officer was dispatched to check out reports of a reckless driver near campus. When the officer spotted the car stopped at an intersection, he noticed the red 2000 Chrysler was not moving through several green lights.
The officer found Dunlap slumped over and asleep at the wheel. The officer woke up Dunlap through a cracked window, but he "would only open his eyes momentarily and then fall back asleep," Kameg said.
The officer unlocked the door, put the car in park and turned off the ignition. Dunlap got out and "was very groggy and had difficulty speaking and listening to instructions," Kameg said.
According to police, Dunlap had watery and bloodshot eyes, and there was a smell of alcohol. Dunlap failed a field sobriety test, refused a breath test and was booked.
Dunlap, the defensive MVP of the Bowl Championship Series national title game in January, has started every game this season for the defending champs. He has 35 tackles and is tied for the team lead with seven sacks.
Without him, the Gators will turn to Justin Trattou, Jaye Howard and William Green to pick up the slack opposite Jermaine Cunningham.
Meyer declined to talk about Dunlap's future, including if he would play in the team's bowl game. Dunlap had been considered a top-10 pick in the NFL draft, and many expect him to leave school early in January.
"I haven't thought about anything other than the word stunning's probably appropriate," Meyer said. "He's not really had an issue before. He comes from a good family."